Public Safety

National, state motorcycle fatalities trend down last year

Governors Highway Safety Association "cautiously optimistic" about data

(File photo/Reuters) People line the route as motorcyclists participate in the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally, the annual ride around Washington Mall to raise awareness for prisoners of war and soldiers still missing in action, on Memorial Day weekend in Washington, U.S., May 29, 2016.
(File photo/Reuters) People line the route as motorcyclists participate in the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally, the annual ride around Washington Mall to raise awareness for prisoners of war and soldiers still missing in action, on Memorial Day weekend in Washington, U.S., May 29, 2016.

Nationwide motorcycle traffic fatalities dropped by 5.6 percent from 2016 to 2017, a new report shows.

The Governors Highway Safety Association on Wednesday released a report showcasing preliminary data on last year’s motorcycle fatalities by state. Per the report, U.S. motorcycle fatalities dropped by nearly 300 deaths — from 5,286 in 2016 to 4,990 last year. That’s coming off a 5.1 percent increase in such deaths from 2015 to 2016, the report states.

“Motorcyclist fatality numbers have fluctuated from year to year over the past decade, so while we are cautiously optimistic about this projection, we really need to see a sustained trend downward toward eventually eliminating motorcyclist fatalities altogether,” Cassanova Powell, an independent researcher and author of the report said in a Wednesday news release.

Mitchell Schmidt / The Gazette

Meanwhile, Iowa saw a more than 26 percent drop in fatalities over the two years — from 60 to 44, according to the report.

Iowa’s motorcycle fatality rate also has fluctuated over the years. There were 41 motorcycle fatalities in 2015, 51 in 2014 and 41 in 2013, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation. Last year, a helmet was not used in 34 of the 47 fatalities counted by the Iowa DOT. In 2016, a helmet was not worn in 47 of the 60 fatalities that year.

Iowa is one of three states — including Illinois and New Hampshire — with no motorcycle helmet laws.

Other notes from the report:

  • The fatality rate for motorcyclists is 28 times higher than passenger vehicles per mile driven, according to the report.
  • One out of every four motorcyclist involved in a fatal crash in 2016 had a blood alcohol content over the legal limit. The trend continued in 2017.
  • The report indicates that overall vehicle collision claims in states with legalized recreational marijuana use were 3 percent higher than what would be expected without legalization.
  • Riders over the age of 40 make up the largest share of motorcyclist fatalities. In 2016, the average age of motorcyclists who died on the road was 43 years old.
  • Motorcyclists make up 14 percent of all motor vehicle-related fatalities, up from less than 6 percent in 1994.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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